The physical weakening of cancer-ridden Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is leading his potential heirs to maneuver for the reins, in a delicate game played behind the scenes that pits the interests of Cuba against those of Chavist military brass and those of the so-called bolibourgeois.
Even though apparently solid, Chavism seems to be unraveling, said analysts who pointed to the confrontation between the side led by Vice President and Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro annointed as heir by Chávez himself and the side led by the current chairman of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello.
According to analysts consulted by El Nuevo Herald, Maduro represents the Chavist sector that is ideologically aligned with the interests of Cuba, while Cabello heads the segment of nationalist military officers.
And it is precisely within the National Assembly, the body that has to choose its new chairman on Saturday, where the parties seem destined to fight the first great skirmish that could define the future of the transition, within the framework of Maduros efforts to wrest from Cabello the leadership of the legislative power.
The problem now begins among themselves, said political advisor Esteban Gerbasi. It is a very delicate situation.
According to the Venezuelan Constitution, the chairman of the National Assembly must assume the presidency of the republic after Jan. 10, if Chávez is declared to be totally absent before being sworn in.
The situation would be different if Chávez is sworn in. In that case, Maduro could be ratified as president and would become interim president until new elections are held. New elections would have to be held in a short time, same as if Cabello assumed the presidency, Gerbasi said.
So far, the Venezuelan government has maintained silence over Chávezs ability to assume the presidency next week, saying little about his health condition except that it is stable.
Those bare pronouncements were repeated Wednesday by Minister of Science and Technology Jorge Arreaza, who is Chávezs son-in-law.
The medical team explained to us that President Chávezs condition remains stable within his delicate picture, Arreaza wrote in his Twitter account.
Comandante Chávez continues to battle hard and sends all his love to our people. Perseverance and patience! he wrote in another publication.
Arreaza has been in Cuba with the presidents children since Chávez was operated on for a cancer whose location and extent are unknown.
But few Venezuelans think Chávez will travel to Caracas next week to be sworn in, leaving it possible that the swearing-in ceremony will be held in Cuba. That would not be seen kindly by Venezuelans.
Meanwhile, Venezuelans attention is beginning to focus on the election of the new leadership of the National Assembly, to be held Saturday at a session summoned by Cabello. Maduro is promoting the candidacy of deputy Blanca Eekhout.
Political analyst Martín Rodil said that Cabello is working hard to achieve the majority he needs among the 165 deputies in the National Assembly to remain in his post.
So far, Diosdado has written down in his favor the names of at least 33 Chavist deputies and is working to increased that number, contacting even some opposition deputies, Rodil said.